By Grahame Anderson

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said sorry to A-Level students over the exam marking controversy following the Governments’ change of heart yesterday.

It seemed inevitable they would join both Northern Ireland and Wales in reversing original decisions on how grades would be calculated. But despite growing pressure it seems unlikely Mr Williamson will be resigning.

All this after Pupils in Mr Williamson’s South Staffordshire constituency marched from their high school to his office on Monday.

Moderation Process

The new decision means those who were awarded a higher grade by the moderation process will be allowed to keep it. This however, doesn’t apply to BTEC exams.

Controversial Algorithm

In England, the algorithm introduced to help the moderation process downgraded almost 40 per cent of initial grades awarded by teachers. In effect, this seemed to advantage private schools over state comprehensives, with many from a disadvantaged background suffering most.

Ofqual confirmed exam results in England will now be based on teachers’ assessments of their students, unless the grades produced by the controversial algorithm are higher.

The head of exam regulator Ofqual, Roger Taylor, said the changes were made after “seeing the experience” of students’ “distress” and “anxiety”.

He added: “We realised that we had taken the wrong road here and we needed to change course. The revised A-level results will be loaded into UCAS’ systems “by the end of this week.”

Head of the Education Partnerships, Sam Freedman said “many schools deliberately graded down to fit expected distribution” so the news “just shifts the unfairness on to the pupils at those schools”.

University Hopes

Mr Williamson made it clear individuals who were downgraded and had to take a place at another university can now ask their initial choices if they will still take them. This of course, is up to the establishment in question.

In Bradford, 18-year-old Holly Barber told Sky News she was downgraded from A, A, A to B, C, E. Before yesterdays decision she’d said the Government had “completely ruined a lot of kids’ futures”.

Meanwhile, Ministers have called on universities to be as flexible as possible, citing they expect institutions to honour and meet all offers made.

Union Reaction

Both Paul Whiteman of the school leaders union the NAHT and Universities UK has warned delays will have made it harder for universities to find places for students.

The Government will also remove temporary student number controls, introduced to stop over-recruitment due to COVID-19 to further assist students.

Opposition Comment

Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer commented: The Government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion.

This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.

However, the Tories’ handling of this situation has been a complete fiasco.

Incompetence has become this Government’s watchword, whether that is on schools, testing or care homes.

Boris Johnson’s failure to lead is holding Britain back.”

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, asking him to clarify a number of points in order to address the concerns of young people and their families with regard to amongst other things university places.

She added: “The UK government has finally listened to young people, their parents, their teachers, and the Labour Party, and changed their approach to exams.

This was a welcome and necessary change in policy, but we should never have been in this position as the government has had months to get this right. The delay and chaos accompanying means that students, families, and education providers have no answers to essential questions.

It is time for this government to get a grip and provide the clarity that we need to move forward.”

At the moment Ucas haven’t been given access to upgraded results, so they can’t say how many students had not been able to take up university places due to their results being downgraded.

GCSE results are due out on Thursday.